3 JUNE 1972, Page 32


Health schemes

Terry Mahon

Sudden illness or accident whilst abroad can be devastating in more ways than one as the subsequent bill received can cause far more distress than the original ailment. One hears a variety of travellers' tales of extortion, bullying, confiscated passports or even incarceration within the hospital walls until payment is made. Whilst some of these tales can doubtless be taken along with the pinch of salt provided, there is nevertheless great anxiety suffered by many Britons now living abroad on limited incomes in countries not covered by the equivalent of the National Health Service. Many such countries do run private medical insurance schemes, such as Spain's Union Previsora, but these are in the main limited not only to certain districts but to certain hospitals and doctors within those districts and cannot therefore be entirely satisfactory.

There are, of course, numerous shortterm schemes available to travellers, such as that operated by the Travellers' Insurance Association of Pall Mall, which gives up to a month's cover at any time for medical and surgical care, accommodation for relative or friend and additional expenses incurred in returning home, up to a total of £500, for the relatively modest outlay of £2. But none of these schemes is of much use to the resident abroad on a more permanent basis.

Members of BUPA can avail themselves of the group's Worldwide Travel Scheme which gives complete medical cover of up to £1,000 in sixteen-day periods for an outlay of £1.50. These sixteen-day periods are renewable from outside the country up to a total of one year. For a further outlay of 80p members can also get Lloyd's travel insurance which not only covers all the usual baggage and personal effects but also accident to £1,000 and personal liability up to £100,000 for the same period. BUPA's only other overseas scheme is confined exclusively to residents of Malta, where it has been in operation for some years. This scheme will give total coverage for a subscriber with one dependant at from £25.10 to £35.35 a year according to the type of accommodation involved (small ward or private room). There is also a more comprehensive overseas treatment scheme to include anywhere outside Malta for £77.30.

But the most satisfactory answer to the problem is probably that offered under the aegis of the Provident Association for Medical Care whose Hospital-Service Plan is now available through that other nonprofit organisation, Private Patients' Plan. This has been expressly designed for those living permanently abroad and offers a number of schemes with subscriptions based on benefits payable. For example: a subscriber of fifty years of age with one dependant paying £55.25 a year is covered for benefits amounting to £850. An individual without dependants, under thirty years of age, would receive the same benefits for £22.10 a year. Those who already subscribe to Private Patients' Plan can also avail themselves of this scheme, up to a maximum of two years at any one time.

To become a member of either BUPA or PPP insurance schemes, subscribers must be under sixty-five years of age at the time of joining but there is no upper age limit. All subscriptions can be made in sterling. Nor is there any need to pay hospital or doctors' fees directly — all claims or unpaid bills can be passed straight to the appropriate group head office and as far as the patient is concerned, this operation at least is entirely painless.